6/12/08

Jimmy Mosher- A True Voice

My first private saxophone teacher when I got to Berklee was a salty but gentle alto player by the name of Jimmy Mosher, who at that time was also head of the woodwind department. I was a bit of a know it all punk and had a lot of bad habits that needed to be corrected. When Jimmy tried to get me to change my embouchure completely I was like, "Who the hell are you? This is the way I play and it obviously is working for me." Mosher was a kind and gentle man and never took offense at these outbursts of youthful arrogance. He would just smile, knowing that I probably wouldn't find my voice for at least another twenty years.

I had already gone through my Bird phase and my Phil Woods phase and had it set in my mind that I was going to be an INNOVATOR like Trane, not and imitator. Half way through the semester I still hadn't yet heard Jimmy really play, other than just a few examples in my lessons.
As my buddy Warren Rand said," Jimmy didn't act like he was nearly the bad ass that he was". I remember telling Jimmy that I didn't want to be just another Bird imitator, not even realizing how much he idolized Bird himself. Jimmy certainly wasn't just a Bird clone, though he was firmly rooted in Bebop. He was a true stylist in his own right, one of those players who you can pick out after just a few notes. After all how could I, or anyone for that matter, really innovate at the ripe old age of nineteen?

Toward the end of our first semester together Jimmy decided that I was too stubborn to listen to him. He told me," I'm going to send you over to the old man (Joe Viola), he'll know what to do (how to deal) with you." At that time Joe V was semi-retired and never took freshman saxophone students. Jimmy pulled some strings and the next semester I began my studies with Joe Viloa. When I look back on the situation I wonder if I would have listened to him more had I known that he was one of the baddest saxophonists walking the planet.

At some point that year I got the news that Jimmy was battling cancer, which had been discovered only after it had metastasized into his bones and all throughout his body. I realized that he must have been in terrible pain while I had been studying with him, and not just grumpy.
Jimmy passed away in the summer of 1987.

Several months ago Jimmy's widow Annette emailed me, she had run across my name while Googling Jimmy. We became email buddies and have kept in touch since then. Annette now lives in Belgium and works as a hospitality trainer for an upscale hotel chain, traveling all over the world for the company. I had thought that she must have some unreleased recording of Jimmy somewhere, but alas she did not. She told me about the albums that Jimmy released under his own name and I bought them on eBay. They were good, but Jimmy really didn't stretch much.

A month or two ago I get an email from someone else who had run accross me (probably this blog) while searching for Jimmy. This guy happened to be an old friend/fan of Jimmy's and had recorded many hours of live shows of Jimmy's band with Mick Goodrick. He promised to send me the recordings after he transfered them to digital format.

Last week I this package in the mail and when I open it lo and behold, it's thirteen CDs of live Jimmy Mosher/Mick Goodrick bootlegs! I could not believe my good fortune and was totally estatic when I actually listened to them. It was some of the most killing alto playing I had ever heard in my life. Jimmy had it all, an amazing sound, fluent lines, great time, a highly advanced harmonic concept, blistering technique, and loads of SOUL.To my ear Jimmy sounded like the best parts of Bird, Charlie Mariano, Charles McPherson and Bob Mover all rolled up into one. He had a voice all of his own also, obviously a true master of the Jazz saxophone (of which there are only a handful).

Hearing these recording of Jimmy was a major shock to my system. I had been listening to a lot of Konitz and Warne Marsh, as well as reading a book of Konitz interviews. Here Jimmy was barrelling through his solos on fire and with intense wailing emotion, almost the polar opposite of Lee. Jimmy's playing just made me think to myself," That's it. That is IT!". I was as excited again about music as I was as a teenager.

I wrote some questions that I had about Jimmy Annette. Here they are:



DV: Where did Jimmy go to school?

AM: At Lynn Classical High School, Lynn, MA. He got into trouble wearing a black arm band to school on the day that Charlie Parker died. Evidently, the principal was not a jazz lover. I later taught at that same school for 20 years.

DV: What was his first big gig?

AM: Don't know for sure. He had a Big Band with Paul Fontaine while they were in high school (trumpet player also on the Buddy Rich band later on). They used to rehearse in the cellar of Mosher's Music Store, which was run by his mother after his father passed away. This is when I first met Jimmy - I used to take yoga
classes with his mother, who was a very hep lady. I thought he was a
real snob at the time.

DV: Who were some of the people he played with?

AM: Well, first big gigs were with Woody Herman (New Swingin' Herman Herd). Album recorded March 22, 1960. He was just a kid then and played baritone sax mostly. Paul Fontaine was also on that band. Of course, there were the seven years with the Buddy Rich band when he was lead alto. Many albums. The most famous for Jimmy was on the album "A Different Drummer" when he did "Chelsea Bridge" and a really wonderful thing called "Pipe Dreams", that was arranged for Jimmy by
John LaBarbara, whose brother Pat also played on that album - "Straight, No Chaser" on tenor sax. He also appeared on the Johnny Carson show with Buddy's band.

On his own first album, he dedicated "A Chick from Chelsea" to Chick Corea. He produced the album at Chick's studio in California. Jimmy knew Chick from the old days - Chick grew up in Chelsea, Ma. and Jimmy had wonderful relationship with Chick's mom and dad. Chick's dad, Armando, played trumpet and was a wonderful man. He would come often with his wife to hear Jimmy play in the clubs in Boston.

Bert Seager did an album called "Time to Burn" which featured Jimmy. One of my favorite tunes from that album was called "Mosher Exposure". Maggie Scott released an album with a beautiful solo by Jimmy on "Yesterday, I Heard the Rain."

He played for many years on the Herb Pomeroy band. (Herb recently passed away, unfortunately.) Herb taught at Berklee also, and the band was a powerhouse of Berklee faculty - ex Buddy Rich guys. Gordy Brisker wrote a fantastic high powered arrangement of the Mario Lanza tune "Be My Love" for Jimmy. This one always got him a standing ovation. Unfortunately, as far as I know it was never recorded - unless someone did this at a club.

While I dated, later married Jimmy, I heard him play in a zillion clubs (East & West Coast) - some of the people I remember were Tom Harrell, Max Roach. (I will need to go through my cassettes to see some of the others). He was always Mel Torme's choice for back up sax, whenever he played in Boston (usually at Symphony Hall).

DV:Where and when was he born?

AM: Born in Lynn, Ma. He was a Pisces. He was only 49 when he died in 1987 on May 5th. I will let you do the math. His dad died at the same age. He always told me that he would never see 50.

DV: What are the details of gig with Buddy Rich?

AM: Lots of funny. Sad stories. Not sure I can tell you most of them. They loved each other. When Jimmy was ill, so was Buddy with a brain tumor. Buddy died on 4/4 and Jimmy on 5/5 - perfect time, as always. I remember that when they were both sick, they were on the phone one day and I overheard them arguing about which of them looked more like Humphrey Bogart.

DV: When did he play with Dizzy and how did that happen?

AM: That was before me, so I am not sure. I do have a wonderful photo of Dizzy and Bill Cosby that Jimmy left me. They're sitting on a beach somewhere wonderful.

DV: How long did teach at Berklee and how long was woodwind chairman?

AM: I will have to find out the number of years - it was long time. He became chairman when Joe Viola retired, and that was very short time before he became ill in 1987. He LOVED Joe Viola and John La Porta. When we were married, they put together a classical quintet and played Jimmy's Life at the wedding. It was wonderful - sad and hysterical.

DV: What did you think when you first heard Jimmy play?

AM: I heard him on the Jazz Boat that used to cruise in Boston Harbor. It was my birthday and I took the cruise on a whim, not knowing that Herb's band was there. Jimmy gave me an autographed copy of his first album. We had known each other many years earlier, but I had not seen him in many years. I missed his drinking years, and he was six years sober that night on the boat. So, we talked a lot during the breaks.

The first tune I heard him play was "Come Rain or Come Shine". I thought it was the most sensuous, soulful thing I had ever heard. I remember crying in the dark. I had no idea that I was falling in love. The other tune I remember always is "If I should lose you".

DV: How did Jimmy pass?

AM: Jimmy died on May 5,1987. When they discovered the cancer just before Christmas, it was in the bones - so already very painful. They never discovered the primary site (evidently bone cancer is always a secondary site). Jimmy gave me two kittens just before he became ill. I still have the male, Pepe, who is now 22 years old. Pretty old for a cat - but still pretty feisty. When Pepe was tiny, he was all black except for some weird white hairs sticking out of his back. Jimmy named him
Pepe Le Pew, because his father must have been a skunk. He absolutely loved cartoons.

DV: Did Jimmy say anything that you remember about his group with Mick?

AM: Jimmy loved those gigs - especially Mick. He loved playing straight-ahead bebop and he loved playing sensitive ballads. Mick is a very subtle sensitive player, so together they were awesome. .

DV: Did Jimmy write any tunes, if so do you have any of them?

AM: Yes, one of them was on the CD set I just got - "Why did I call you?" He also wrote a lot of arrangements for Herb's band. I will look for some more and let you know.

DV: Anything that you can remember saying about his musical concept?
AM: I remember that Stan Getz told me once that he was happy that Jimmy never chose to play tenor. Jimmy had two heroes - Bird and Charlie Mariano. I once asked him how he improvised - he said that he sees the music staff stretched out in front of him horizontally and he just weaves in and out through the chord structure.

DV: Anything that you can remember saying about his students or young players in general?

AM: Sometimes his students would exasperate him when they asked him to teach them some of Bird's licks. They didn't want to practice scales, just do licks. That really upset him. Also, they wanted to play a lot of really fast stuff that involved circular breathing. He used to say that there was also music in the silences. It was about quality, not quantity.

He had some wonderful young (at the time) students who were really talented and he would use them in his local gigs. One of them was Grey Sargent, who has been playing many years now with Tony Bennett. When Jimmy was in the hospital, it was Grey who helped me move all of Jimmy's stuff to the new apartment in Boston.

DV: Do you remember Jimmy practicing much?

AM: Only with Herb's band. I am sure he practiced a lot, but never when I was home. He also played very good piano. We got to a gig at the Colonnade Hotel in Boston on a very snowy evening. Woody Herman was coming to sit in!! He had pretty much retired by then. Anyway, the piano player was caught in the storm, so Jimmy sat down and played piano for the first half of the gig. I never knew he could play piano, and he said he couldn't. But that is not what I heard.

DV: I was told that Jimmy made it out here to Portland, Oregon in the 80's.

AM: Yes, I came out with him too. We had some very good friends there - the Kinhan family. Their daughter was at Berklee. She had a fabulous voice and Jimmy played for her at her graduation concert (note: this is Lauren Kinhan of New York Voices) . Her Dad was a big jazz fan. If I can find anything from Portland, I will try to send more information. We also went to Montreal on our honeymoon. Of course, he had a gig there which Bobby Mover fixed up for him.

Jimmy also hooked up with an agent in the U.K. and one summer he did an entire tour with local rhythm sections - I was his roadie! The tour went all through England & Scotland. It was very funny because we followed Archie Shepp - coming right after him in many clubs. Club owners kept telling me how different the two of them were. Jimmy was such a gentleman. He rehearsed with the local guys during the day, while I did the tourist thing. Haven't thought of that trip in a long time. Great memories.


________________________________________________________________

Here is the email I received back from David Lee, the friend of Jimmy's and Mick's that recorded all their live shows, after I thanked him for sending me the recordings:
"I'm so glad you have them in your hands. I know you don't have to even mention what it means, I'm only glad I can share this. I have known from the moment I first heard Jimmy and Mick that there were depths of understanding that would take me years to appreciate, no less understand. I have kept them all these years as my own life as a player has moved to some worthy point of convergence. Having listened to these again, quite a bit, I hear the answers to so many questions I have from phrasing to places to go when there doesn't seem to be a place to go... And then there's the relaxed camaraderie of such great musicians having a great time. There's humour, and conversation and mastery; played for the moment and caught by chance on a cassette.

I know Mick wouldn't mind your posting these, he just passed some links of European recordings he made with Tom Harrell and some with Jerry Bergonzi and it seems the Europeans a
re a lot less hung up about sharing their treasures. I'll send you the links at the end. He was happy that he could share them. Yes, put them out there. Everyone I've ever talked with remembers Jimmy fondly (for all his irascibility) and sees him as one of the criminally overlooked talents of all times. I knew him as a true conduit from "old school" to the most modern voices as they were being realized. Speaking of voices, I don't know whether I'd conveyed this story but a few months ago I was having lunch with Mick and I told him my frustration of sending some of my students to start at Berklee before they'd found their voice, how I'd hoped they wouldn't lose their fragile tendencies during their academic years. He said to me "they're not going to find their voice so don't bother. Jimmy told me "You won't find your voice until you're 40 so don't bother and don't worry about it." and I was about 35 at the time-I thought I had it pretty together. But when I reached 40 I understood that what he said was true."

I think Mick was happy to hear these again because he felt he played really strong at this time. There was a transformation that he went through playing in Jack DeJohnette's band around that time. But as you know, as much as where you are on your own, it's the company you keep that defines what you can do as a whole. Keep in touch. I'm happy to have provided you with this introduction to Jimmy Mosher again. In his element and in his living spirit. David Lee"

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Saudade
Skylark
Stella
Blue Walls
Bolivia
Miss Krissy
Windows
Chick's Quartet #2
Chick's Quartet #2, part 2
Pagliacci
Relaxin' at the Camarillo
In Your Own Sweet Way
Softly as in a Morning Sunrise
Little Dancer
Yes My Dear
Falling Grace
Why did I call you?
Our Waltz
Mosher Exposure

15 comments:

tojakobi said...

Thanks a lot for sharing this...of course for sharing the great music but also for sharing the background to it, your thoughts and honest memories, the emails!

Really a special post.

David Wells said...

What a great player! I had never really heard him except as a section player on various big bands .... wow! Do you know who the pianist or drummer are on any of the tracks?

David Carlos Valdez said...

The pianist is Bert Seager, on bass is John Lockwood, the drum chair is either Joe Hunt or Peter Donald depending on the track.

Scooby said...

Thanks so much for making these recordings available! THere is not nearly enough of Jimmy's music available on records so this is a treasure trove!

Marla said...

David,

Thank you so much for this loving tribute to Jimmy.

Marla

wen mew said...

dave, i've never heard mosher. this was really interesting. now i want to hear him. email me a track if you can wenmew@verizon.net

my friend Dr. Bourne who's now in his 80s played like bird when he was a young man in london. now he lives in new zealand. and he doesn't like my slow stuff much. he wants all up tempo stuff. no one's ever heard him.
there are many good players who live in their hometowns that people will never hear.

wen

Bruce said...

I remember Jimmy very well. We played together many times in different configurations. One of the memorable gigs for me was trio with John Abercrombie at the Starlight Roof 3 nights in Kenmore Sq. 1985

David said...

Hey there, just stopped by to visit and I love the Jimmy tribute! First, let me say on the drum chair, most of the recordings I sent are Gary Chaffee. I don't know which ones you posted, Gary or Peter Donald, two of Jimmy's favourites.
Here's an interesting Buddy Rich story Jimmy told me: He had the alto chair which was located right in front of the drums. Each night Jimmy's ears would be ringing and he felt as if he would lose his hearing. So Jimmy got a pair of ear filters and he showed up for work equipped. Somewhere during the first set he's blinded by a searing pain in the back of his head- Buddy's stabbing Jimmy with his drumstick "Mosher! You don't like what you hear? Find another job!"
That's just one of the stories he shared but you can see why that one sticks in my head!! Ouch!
So many more stories, I'll share them if you're interested. Jimmy was such a rich human being and a true artistic channel of all of his experiences. How many can say that?
David

Marla said...

David,

A huge thank you for the Jimmy Mosher story from when he was on Buddy's band. Please share more stories!!!! As David Valdez knows, for me, the sharing of the Mosher tracks is the highlight of this year or any year. I used to hear Jimmy with Buddy's band back in the 70's around NY/NJ/Phila, and while I treasure those days, it is just magnificent beyond words to be able to hear JImmy really "stretch out" in a small group. Jimmy has always been and will always be, one of my jazz heroes! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Marla Kleman

Jan Mosher Dargue said...

David -- thank you so much for this site, AND your contact with my Aunt Judi. I am Jimmy's youngest daughter, Jan, and am extremely grateful for you, this site, and letting us know about his induction at the New England Jazz Hall of Fame! WOOT!!!!!

malurque said...

Dave, thanks for the great post on Jimmy Mosher. I was a student of Jimmys in 1981 and learned many things. He had a nickname for me "the Hammer", because my fingers were far from the pearls. He would tell me and show me how to keep my fingers close. He would say "Goddammit Hammer, your fingers are all the way down to the Boston Common!!" The first tune is listed as "Saudade", the title might be "Books Bossa" because that's the title on the lead sheet of this tune that Jimmy gave to me, still have it almost 30 years later. all the best, wayne

David Carlos Valdez said...

That's a great story. I have a few students that I'm going to start calling that.

Saudade is in fact Book's Bossa, and vice versa. The tune was listed with both title on different recordings/lead sheets. I like the Brazilian title myself, but I think that more people do know it as Book's Bossa.

EdtheTed said...

Thanks so much for this, truly brilliant playing. I was a student of Jimmy's around 1981. I'd had 3 years of classical training and wanted the Berklee "jazz experience". I'm surprised he was so young because he seemed to be even "older" school than his age would indicate. I remember his beautiful full sound and we still went through Bozza etudes etc., not just jazz stuff. He talked about playing "arranger's piano" and showed me some harmony ideas. I really liked just talking to him about jazz, different players etc. The lessons were like a window on a different world of wisdom. These recordings are incredible. Thanks for remembering and providing so many details.

Lisa said...

What a wonderful post - thank you for sharing. Back in 1980 Jimmy was working in the Human Services department of the City of Somerville, MA and I was one of his co-workers. On the first Tuesday of the month, Jimmy performed w/Herb Pomeroy (or it might have been Chic Corea - I was new to the jazz scene) at an establishment located midway between Boston's North End and the Haymarket Square area. As a group, our whole department would attend. I had an inkling, but never knew just how good he really was till seeing this article.

Unknown said...

Hey it's David again.
This blog has turned out to be a great treasure for so many. Thanks-
I was talking with Mick and about a month ago somebody was collecting release permissions to reissue some of Jimmy and Mick's recordings on CD. Annette's was the only remaining one and he asked if I knew how to reach her. I tried her email and it was not good anymore. Might you be able to help me out here? This could mean some more vintage Jimmy Mosher may live again to see the light of day in the digital realm.
Hope it happens! Oh, here's a current email for me: dlee6@berklee.edu Thanks for all!